What are the health risks of sulfur dioxide?
What are the potential health effects of sulfur dioxide?
- Inhalation: VERY TOXIC, can cause death.
- Skin Contact: CORROSIVE.
- Eye Contact: CORROSIVE.
- Ingestion: Not a relevant route of exposure (gas).
- Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure: May harm the respiratory system.
- Carcinogenicity: Not known to cause cancer.
Sulfur dioxide might not sound good enough to eat, but this food preservative does make its way into a number of edibles, including dried fruits such as raisins, dried apricots and prunes. Sulfur dioxide is one type of sulfite, a preservative whose name might be more familiar.
- Sulphur dioxide in foods and beverages: its use as a preservative and its effect on asthma. Sulphur dioxide is widely used in the food and drinks industries for its properties as a preservative and antioxidant. These are predominantly dried fruits and vegetables, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.
- In high concentrations (above those normally used in foods) it can cause gastrointestinal disturbances in some people. Dietary restrictions: None – sulphur dioxide and sulphites can be consumed by all religious groups, vegans and vegetarians.
- It reacts easily with other substances to form harmful compounds, such as sulfuric acid, sulfurous acid and sulfate particles. About 99% of the sulfur dioxide in air comes from human sources. Sulfur dioxide is also present in motor vehicle emissions, as the result of fuel combustion.
Answer. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative, especially in dried fruits, but also in grapes (both fresh and in winemaking). Sulfur dioxide is considered to be safe; however, some people are sensitive to it, and it may even cause asthma symptoms in those who are predisposed.
- All our packages of sulfite-treated dried fruits contain a cautionary statement that the fruit contains sulfites to alert those who may be allergic. We do not process any dried fruit products containing gluten at our Kingsburg plant, where we produce Sun-Maid Natural Raisins and Zante Currants.
- Adding sulphur to wine. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is the most widely used and controversial additive in winemaking. Its main functions are to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and to protect wine from oxidation.
- When sulfur dioxide is dissolved in rain, it makes sulfurous acid in the reaction SO2 + H2O -> H2SO3. It is because of a very similar reason why CO2 is just a bit acidic, and that is because CO2 + H2O (maybe in the form of rain) -> H2CO3.
Environmental effects. When sulfur dioxide combines with water and air, it forms sulfuric acid, which is the main component of acid rain. Acid rain can: cause deforestation.
- Plants are sensitive to sulfur dioxide and they are affected by it both directly and indirectly. The direct effects may be acute or chronic, depending on the duration and intensity of the exposure. Sulfur dioxide inhibits photosynthesis by disrupting the photosynthetic mechanism.
- Reducing acid rain. Sulfur dioxide can be removed from waste gases after combustion of the fuel. This happens in power stations. The sulfur dioxide is treated with powdered limestone to form calcium sulfate.
- It is produced from the burning of fossil fuels (coal and oil) and the smelting of mineral ores (aluminum, copper, zinc, lead, and iron) that contain sulfur. Sulfur dioxide dissolves easily in water to form sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is a major component of acid rain.
Updated: 16th October 2019